《Campaign 2》、《Flawless Cowboy》和《Reunion Tour》
杀死Covenant。在Campaign 1中看到人类舰队和Pillar of Autumn被粉碎会提升玩家的仇恨，让他们愿意更长时间待在游戏中只为了杀死Covenant。
在许多其他关卡中，Ken Kong必须破坏一些墙体，关卡团队提议加入不同的McGuffin（游戏邦注：这是书、电影中用来推动情节发展的对象或事件）使他能做到，比如允许他使用 身边的一个不平衡的重物来破坏墙体。
案例：《Kung Fu Zombie Killer》
我们以幻想游戏《Kung Fu Zombie Killer》为例，详细地分析一下你所拯救的幸存者类型对它的玩法变化的影响。
虽然你可能以为《Kung Fu Zombie Killer》的基调可能被定义为“滑稽的”，但它的表述对整个开发过程具有重大影响。
幸运地是，《Kung Fu Zombie Killer》的关卡顺序是非常灵活的，但大部分游戏并不是如此。在某些情况下，答案是，反馈给关卡团队，指导他们如何把情绪和玩法更好地融合起 来。
Action Adventure Level Design, Part 1
by Toby gard
Intro – Delegation
Different people have different approaches to delegating design responsibilities.
I have seen creative directors who seem to have no vision of their own but merely act as filters through which their team’s ideas are strained.
I have also seen creative directors who form a rough image of what they want in their heads and then delegate the design to their team after loosely describing it to them. Inevitably the team then repeatedly fail to deliver his expected “right” solution.
A better approach than searching for mind-reading designers, is for the creative leads to express clearly both what they want and where the flexibility is, so that their team can know how to take ownership without getting lost in the creative wilds.
I believe that balance is achieved when an unwavering core vision is delivered to the team (based on the whole team’s input and feedback) and then responsibilities are delegated with clearly defined parameters for success.
This first article describes stage 1 of a process that does just that, based on the methods that I have found the most successful.
The process attempts to balance to a healthy amount of creative freedom and ownership for a level team, while keeping a structured vision in place by defining what details are essential to work out first and communicate to the team and what parts are better to be delegated with success criteria.
The steps that the entire process describes can be just as useful for an individual designer regardless of the level of delegation expected to occur.
Since every project has its own needs and team structure, this process is unlikely to translate exactly for you. However, many of the concepts can be adapted for just about any story-centric game.
Stage 1 Level Flow Diagrams
The first step in the clear communication of vision for level design is delivering the Level Flow Diagram.
There are four sources from which the high level design plan should be drawn:
Motivation – What am I doing here?
Like any good scene or chapter from a book, the conflict and resolution of a level should be born from the main character’s motivations. This is why the character’s motivations should always be clear to the player or they will feel lost and directionless.
These motivations translate into game objectives such as “find the man who killed your lover” or more simply, “kill Boss 5 of 10″. The strongest objectives are ones where character and player motivations are in alignment.
It is not enough to simply state the objective or motivation of a character if you want to create alignment. You also need to make it matter to the player if you want them to become invested in it.
For instance, showing through cutscenes that the main character hates a boss enemy, while letting the player know they must kill that boss to progress, results in a much weaker alignment than giving the player reason to hate that boss enemy.
If that boss enemy betrays the player after the player has come to trust him or if he takes something from the player (for instance by killing an NPC that the player has come to care about) then the player and the character will both have a real reason to hate him.
The time it takes to setup player motivation is why it is so hard to align player motivation and character motivation in an opening cutscene.
Often you have no choice but to state the character motivations right at the beginning, in which case the player will only have an intellectual rather than emotional alignment with him or her.
To strengthen that alignment through the game, the motivation “I want to bring my girlfriend back to life” must be completely linked to the player objective “Kill the Colossus.”
If the objectives are not directly related to the motivation (for example, if you spend most of your time being waylaid by endless rat killing quests) then the player will lose sight of the meaning behind their experience and their alignment with the main character’s motivation will erode along with their interest in continuing to play.
Emotional / Experiential themes
It is during this first phase of the level design that you must choose which of the powerful and interesting set pieces and emotional events that came from the whole team during preproduction brainstorms will make it into the game.
These are the high points around which you will fill in the rest of the level design. They are the moments that will define your game in the player’s mind and it is crucial that they support or drive your story.
The set pieces are high-concept action-oriented ideas such as “escape the burning building” or “find and defuse the four bombs.” Set pieces are the basic building blocks for an action heavy game, just as they are for action movies. The challenge is in creating set pieces that haven’t been done a dozen times before.
The emotionally charged events are the heart of your game — i.e. looking for survivors of a deserted village, only to find a shocking and disturbing answer to their fates as you enter the town hall.
Emotional events have the potential to be more memorable than a set pieces if handled well, but they too require the building of player and character alignment, which makes them harder to pull off.
The game pillars define the basic things the player can do, so to integrate the cool set pieces and emotional scenes into the level, they must be compatible with the player abilities or they will feel anachronous.
The most flexibility will come if the game pillars aren’t considered final until all the Level Flow Diagrams have been completed. It is only during the process of picking the things that will actually happen to the player, that you will learn what the player abilities really ought to be and how flexibly you will need to implement them.
For instance, if the game is about a jet skiing hacker, then it would be inappropriate to build a set piece around horseback crocheting. Doing so would have to rely heavily either on cutscenes and (shudder) quicktime events or would require specific controls, interface elements and abilities.
Apart from being inefficient from a development standpoint to create new abilities for each set piece, they would be also be un-ramped for the player unless you included several such horse riding and crocheting sections, in which case those abilities should have been in the pillars in the first place.
Regardless what sort of game you are making there is a story that is almost as important to consider as the main character’s; that of the level itself. Whether the player is experiencing an alien invasion, or trying to solve a murder mystery, their level of immersion is almost entirely dependent on your commitment to preserving fiction.
The most common mistake made in level design is defining a set of challenges loosely based on a manufactured set of parameters and then trying to set dress them to look like something. This inevitably results in unconvincing, bland and forgettable levels.
Despite many protestations from designers who feel shackled by a fiction-heavy approach, the reality is that when you resolve to respect the fiction of a level you inevitably find yourself designing spaces and events that surprise not just the player, but often yourself as well.
I will go into this in detail in the second stage of level development called “Building Through Fiction” but for now, all we need is the commitment to ensure that our overall level flow is being defined in a context that can be made fictionally consistent.
So no windsurfing on the moon — however much fun that may sound.
Level Flow Elements
Some people make full flow charts of their levels, but I tend to think that’s excessively restrictive and not informative at all regarding basic spacial layout.
I prefer a level flow that resembles hybrid between a schematic diagram and a simple beat sheet.
The goal is not to be exhaustive, but to define the skeleton of the level; the core of it.
On average I find that at least half of the final level goals will actually be added by the team during the next stage, so it’s important to keep these simple because the level will at least double in complexity from here. If you can’t fit the flow on one page, then it is probably too long.
The types of elements that you would include will be different depending on the type of game you are making, but the goal is always the same; keep it simple.
In this example I used the following:
I use these to call out the player’s arrival at an area. They serve as the locations on my schematic but also the critical information pieces given to player, during scripted events etc.
The things the player does. These are generally objectives that have been clearly communicated to the player.
Locks are the “hard gates” that restrict forward progress in the level until a certain set of criteria are met. (I’m lumping “soft gates” into Player Response for the purposes of this.)
These are status changes either of the world or of the player character that will lead to opening a ‘lock’ somewhere.
Example – Halo: Combat Evolved
Campaign 2, Flawless Cowboy and Reunion Tour
This single page schematic actually describes two levels (one campaign) that takes about an hour to complete.
Along with this diagram you would include notes that describe the intention behind each element and directly references the four sources from which they were derived. (This is how you define the success criteria for the level team.)
Kill the Covenant. Seeing the human fleet and the Pillar of Autumn being shredded in Campaign 1 gives the player enough animosity to last for a game’s worth of Covenant killing.
This would include the focus on introducing the player their first experience with the three-man driving / gunning Warthog gameplay, and the cooperation with AI troops.
Referencing films and other games is a good way to quickly communicate theme. Starship Troopers might be a good example to evoke the feeling of soldiers being overwhelmed by an alien enemy on an alien world.
The level is teaming with touches that infer a great deal about both the larger story and the smaller scale individual stories of the ongoing war:
Destroyed escape pods and the bodies of those that did not survive the landing litter the landscape, while debris from the space battle overhead fall through the sky. Each of the pod crash sites suggests the short desperate survival stories of the soldiers Master Chief meets there.
Once a Level Flow Diagram is done, you are still a long way from moving onto the next stage, the handoff to the team.
To evaluate a Level Flow Diagram you need to have done the whole game’s worth. Only when they are all side by side can you can see how well they fit with each other and how the ebb and flow of gameplay will move from the start to the end of the game.
Put them all up on a wall, and you will see where the player is being sidetracked, where a different order of events would make for a better rhythm and where emotional events are happening too early in a game for player and character alignment to have occurred.
The secret to making a great story based game is to make the actions of the player be the engine that drives the story, not the other way around.
Ico and Shadow of the Colossus are among the most successful stories in video games, yet many say the story elements were minimal. That’s not true. The story was everywhere, because the player lives it.
Ico was about escape and protection. Every time you managed to coax Yorda closer to escaping from the castle, the story of your struggle for freedom progressed. In Shadow of the Colossus, throughout the game the hero slowly sacrifices not just his own life but the lives of each colossi, in his mad quest to resurrect his love.Protecting a girl and Killing Colossi. The player actions are shaping the story taking the burden off the cutscenes and making the story matter to the player.
Level Flow Diagrams are the first key communication of Level Design intent to the team.
Build Level Flow Diagrams from:
Emotional and experiential set pieces
Player actions as defined in the game pillars
The environment’s own fiction
Use minimal elements to draw the diagram, and represent only the main events.
Keep it to one page.
Ensure you are driving story through player action
Action Adventure Level Design: Pacing, Content, and Mood
by Toby gard
By the end of the process described in the last article — building through fiction — you will most likely have a mixture of paper maps, written stories, detailed flowcharts, concept art and possibly some 3D mockup spaces, depending on how each level team prefers (or has been instructed) to represent their plan.
Those levels will have taken shape in surprising and unexpected ways. Levels that we had assumed to be straightforward action levels may have revealed rich veins for puzzles, and many levels are likely to have prompted ideas that fall outside of the current game mechanics.
Evaluating the Big Picture
To structure their feedback, the creative leads need to validate all level plans in relation to each other. Because the levels are likely to be pretty complex, it is useful to create a simplified representation of the whole game so that you can assess the pacing and emotional consistency of the experience.
Extraction of Mechanics
The first step we need to take is to identify all of these special case interactions and ideas that the level teams have come up with while fleshing out the level plans. Inevitably they will be some of the coolest in the game:
Ken Kong falls down a 30 story lift shaft, doing frantic mid-air kung-fu until there is a pile of zombie bodies beneath him thick enough for him to survive the drop.
It sounds awesome, but the fight system simply cannot accommodate this “fall fighting” mechanic, so the level team has suggested it as a cutscene.
In a couple of other levels, Ken Kong has to destroy some walls and the level teams have proposed different McGuffins to allow him to do this, such as a convenient, precariously balanced heavy object that will break through the wall if triggered.
It is this list of ideas that can produce the neat and original game mechanics that will set your project apart from everyone else’s. By promoting ideas that have the flexibility to be expanded into the core mechanics and peppering them throughout the game, we can create a richer more coherent overall experience.
How could destroying walls become a reusable mechanic? Would it require a consumable, or is it a readily available ability? How rich of a vein is it to be tapped for more applications? Does it have synergy with other player abilities?
Let’s say that we can integrate destroying walls with a new survivor type, a demolitions expert, who carries around explosives that can be put to all sorts of uses, but who also explodes when attacked by a zombie — potentially taking out a large proportion of your crowd. This could make for an interesting risk/reward mechanic and with some standard “explodable” barriers and/or enemies could be used in several levels.
Perhaps the “fall fighting” could also be used on several levels, but this seems more like a mini-game than a new mechanic. While the idea is interesting, the question is, could you make the gameplay deep enough to justify three or four “fall fighting” sequences throughout the game? It potentially seems like a large investment for too small a gain, but if we could make it work, it would be really cool.
These mechanics are generally gold, because they were not forced into the game design from a desire to tick boxes based on competitive products, but were discovered organically through an exploration of its unique themes and the thoughtful exploration of its world.
Once we have integrated the new mechanics and rejected or noted all the new set pieces, we will have adapted the character to live in this more clearly defined world and gathered a major part of the information needed to give feedback to the level teams.
Most games have a basic mixture of elements. For instance, an FPS might have 70 percent shooting on foot and 30 percent vehicle combat.
If every level in the game had exactly that mixture of gameplay, it would get dull for the player pretty quickly. But if you have levels that are entirely on foot, interspersed with a few levels that are predominantly or entirely involving vehicles, then they will act as palate cleansers, changing up the experience enough to keep players interested.
By looking at the mix of gameplay types over the course of the game, you can isolate points where the experience might be too flat.
A great example of a game that keeps the player constantly interested is Half-Life 2. Almost every level has a new central theme, whether it’s a new weapon, a new vehicle or a new type of enemy, your experience changes dramatically every thirty minutes or so.
Let’s carry on with the imaginary game Kung Fu Zombie Killer, discussed in depth the last installment. The variety of gameplay in that design comes from the types of survivors that you rescue.
With doctors, you could have a level where your goal is to heal injured survivors.
With forklift truck drivers, you could have a level where heavy equipment has to be taken to a particular location in order to progress.
With engineers, you could have levels that included traditional puzzle elements.
With soldiers, you could have a level where your crowd actually does most of the fighting for you.
And so on.
Let’s assume these were the locations we settled on for the levels:
We know from the story that the game has to start in Ken’s Dojo and that it has to end with camera men filming Ken as he rescues jenna126xyz.
We have goal mix of 80 percent fighting, 20 percent puzzles for the whole game and we had ordered things like this:
But during the detailing phase two things happened. (More likely a massive number of things would have changed, but let’s keep it relatively simple.)
First, someone came up with a really cool teacher survivor who can put zombies to sleep by lecturing them, which changes the gameplay mix at the college to involve more puzzles.
Second, someone has proposed changing the cinema into a film studio, whereby the zombies and the survivors can be based on clichés like Wild West or Godzilla films. People are very excited about this idea and enough crazy mechanics have come from it to justify potentially splitting it into two levels.
Consequently things are now looking a little less balanced and we have one too many levels:
(For full chart, please click on image)
We have found enough new mechanics that we can nearly introduce a new mechanic every level. By cutting the supermarket and moving the power station a bit earlier we can adjust the level order to create a better gameplay rhythm:
(For full chart, please click on image)
This can still be improved; we can look to either find a new survivor type that can be added to the town hall level, or we can try to replace it with something else that gives us more opportunities to do so.
There are potentially a host of emotions you will want the player to experience over the course of the game. The main character may experience things like unrequited love, revenge, sadness, and anger. These sorts of emotional events are important to track but they are not as important as the overall emotional tone or mood that you want the player to experience.
By “mood”, I mean a basic emotional concept that can be passed to the audience. So panic, fear, trepidation, awe, and excitement would be considered moods, while higher order conceptual emotional themes such as revenge, jealousy, or nihilism would not be.
Generating the mood map has two purposes. It is used to assess that the level order and content will not interfere with the emotional journey of the player but more critically it is a fundamental tool for aligning the whole development team towards creating a holistic experience.
For instance, let’s say that the story of Ken Kong will go like this:
Ken fights his way across the city saving the loved ones of his crush, but it takes him so long that by the end when he reaches her, she has been bitten and become a zombie herself.
If I define the mood map like this:
Kick-arse awesomeness – farcical chaos – mounting triumph – dark comedy
Art will keep things bright and well lit.
Animation will tend towards outrageous over the top stylized action.
Music and sound effects will tend towards fast-paced and comical.
Designers will feel free to be more game-y in UI game design decisions.
By defining the moods specifically over time you will guide the whole team more precisely than you might imagine. For instance “mounting triumph” implies a growing crescendo. It is likely to encourage a ratcheting up of music intensity, increasingly outrageous level end victory animations, and a general tendency to try to up the pacing each level.
While you probably assumed that the tone of KFZK would be defined as something like “zany”, the act of stating it over time has a dramatic impact on the whole development.
For instance, if I instead define the mood map for the whole game like this:
Panic – horror – increasing trepidation – tragedy
Every aspect of the game will be completely changed by this mood map:
Art will create darker dirtier spaces; they will light the levels with flickering pools of light and dress it with increasingly disturbing stories.
Animation will tend towards realism and will avoid any movements at might be construed as funny.
Music and sound effects will be disturbing.
Designers will try to keep UI and other design elements realistic and invisible.
With exactly the same game design, these two mood maps would generate utterly different gaming experiences. When the whole team embraces the mood map and diligently tries to express it in all the assets and creative decisions they make, the mood will be successfully instilled into the player.
What normally happens, though, is that every team member has a slightly different idea of what mood or tone the game should be creating, and rarely any idea at all of what mood the player should be experiencing at any given point in the game. Is it any surprise that most games fail to move people, when the development team are all communicating slightly different messages?
The mood map can be as simple as the above four stage progressions, or it can be as detailed as putting several mood chunks into each level. It is worth bearing in mind that literally no story-based game has only one mood. Even horror games oscillate between building tension and outright terror.
Once you have the gameplay types laid out and the moods defined you can see how the current level plans fit together.
(For full chart, please click on image)
In our case we have puzzle levels late in the game that are clearly going to slow the pace where we want people to be experiencing “mounting triumph.” By reordering levels, or shifting ideas from one level to another, we can better support the emotional goals:
(For full chart, please click on image)
Luckily KFZK’s level order is very flexible, but most games are not. In most cases the answer is to give feedback to the individual level teams to try to reach the desired mood and gameplay mix.
While the above example is probably not the best order, or even the best mood map, the point of the exercise is to try to force yourself into examining the entirety of the plan so that feedback on each level is given relative to its place in the whole experience.
Block Mesh and Prototype
The next step is to start building the levels in 3D, and I argue that the best people to do that are artists, not designers, if you want believable and interesting spaces. Block mesh should validate whether the level as planned will fit into the technical and production limitations while demonstrating that they can be compelling enough spaces.
As these levels are prototyped, inevitably things will end up being slightly different than planned. Designers will adapt their plans based on the art, so throughout the block mesh and prototype phase, the leads have to continually update the game rhythm chart and validate the levels within the context of the mood map.
By continuing to extract new mechanics that arise from the block mesh phase and staying open to level re-ordering you can continue towards a balanced game plan without restricting the creative process of the level builders.
All the information gained by building the block mesh should have refined the game design significantly.
A final Mood Map has been created that will inform all asset creation.
New mechanics have been defined and inserted into all relevant levels.
Levels have been reordered and massaged to create the desired pace and mood.
Memory budgets have been validated.
Weak level plans have been cut.
Player abilities have all been prototyped and final metrics defined.
Once all the levels are prototyped and one level has been polished to act as a vertical slice, production can begin from a very solid basis